When Catherine first moved to Philly, having access to healthy, local food was already a priority for her. She was enamored with her new community on the southern edge of the city where people from all walks of life seemed to converge, with over 40 languages spoken among them! She wanted to be intentional about spending her money locally so that she could have access to the best quality foods available, while at the same time investing in her neighborhood. Once they settled into their new home, she and her husband were quick to become members of the South Philly Food Co-op.
Excited by the idea of having a local food co-op and store in her backyard, Catherine got involved in the project, first as a volunteer member and later as part of the team. Working to sign up more members, secure necessary funding and build out the co-ops community investments, Catherine shared with us that phased construction has already begun and that they aim for the South Philly Food Co-Op to be open for business in summer 2019.
In order for that to happen, Catherine explained, they need to be able to prove that the community is as invested in the co-op as the co-op is in the community.
And they are well on their way! So far, Catherine and the new campaign organizer, Emily have reached 72% of $1.14 million fundraising goal, including pledges, with over 900+ neighborhood households already signed up as members. To close the final gap, Catherine and the co-op leadership are focused on increasing member loans. These loans allow members to lend to the store while deciding their own terms and interest rate. This flexibility means almost anyone can become an investor and be a part of building South Philly’s local food ecosystem.
This theme of distributed and diverse ownership is at the heart of the South Philly Co-op. Embodied in another innovative feature of the project, the Community Equity Fund allows potential members who identify as in need to sign up for membership for only $5 initially. They are then given the opportunity (and dignity!) to come up with their own payment plan designed based on what they feel they are able to pay over a 5 year period. In her own words, Catherine intends to make sure “the co-op is as diverse as this city”, and the Community Equity Fund is what enables that socio-economic diversity.
Others wishing to sign up for the co-op can become lifetime members for just $200! Members also receive auxiliary benefits such as discounts across many South Philly shops and businesses. Beyond that, in the spirit of shared value, Catherine shared plans of a patronage refund, where any profits accumulated are shared amongst members. Not bad!
The South Philly Co-Op team is hard at work to make membership as accessible and beneficial as possible.
Catherine says “In the era of big business, there has never been a more important time for the neighborhood to own something together that is democratically-run and shared, and for our community to collectively say that this is what we want to buy: healthy, local food from small farms and vendors. And beyond that, we don’t want the profits stripped out, we plan to reinvest our profits back into our community and build self-sufficiency and shared prosperity right here in our neighborhood.”